Govt. struggles to justify delayed dissolution

If prez had the powers and wanted the voters to decide why the foot dragging?



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Public Administration, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Susil Premjayantha displays a copy of Sri Lanka’s Constitution, while justifying the dissolution of Parliament by the President, at yesterday’s special media briefing at the Prime Minister’s office. Looking on are Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena and Dayasiri Jayasekera.


by Shamindra Ferdinando


The government yesterday struggled to explain why President Maithripala Sirisena delayed dissolving parliament till Friday (Nov 09) midnight when he could have done so on Oct 26 if constitutionally empowered as claimed.


President Sirisena dissolved parliament in the wake of his failure to secure the required number of lawmakers to prove majority in parliament. In spite of repeatedly declaring having the support of over 120 lawmakers, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine couldn’t bring the operation to a successful conclusion.Public Administration, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Susil Premjayantha and Housing and Social Welfare Minister Wimal Weerawansa explained that President Sirisena resorted to dissolution after failing to settle the issue by other means. Premjayanth justified the change of premiership on the basis of President Sirisena’s liking to work with a party compatible with him. Weerawansa alleged that President Sirisena acted in terms of constitutional powers enjoyed by him due to the situation created by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.


They said so when Sunday Island sought an explanation as to why President Sirisena refrained from parliament on Oct 26 to give the electorate an opportunity to elect the next parliament instead of sacking then Premier Wickremesinghe.


The issue was raised at a special media briefing called by the government at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to explain the circumstances leading to the midnight dissolution of parliament 14 days after the sacking of the government elected at the last parliamentary polls in Aug 2015.


The government panel comprised Dinesh Gunawardena, Susil Premjayanth, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and C.B. Ratnayake.


Weerawansa blamed the dissolution of parliament on the situation created by Wickremesinghe and Jayasuriya by acting contrary to the constitutional provisions available to resolve a crisis of this nature.


Sunday Island asked weren’t the revelations made by President Sirisena himself as regards the alleged assassination plot involving a cabinet minister enough for the head of State to dissolve the parliament. Weerawansa said that those allegations had to be proved in court of law. As the investigations were still continuing, dissolution couldn’t be based on the alleged assassination bid, Weerawansa said.


At the onset of the briefing, government spokesmen repeatedly emphasized the pivotal importance of the electorate – approximately 15 mn given the opportunity to exercise their franchise instead lawmakers who could be influenced by large payments. Citing various constitutional provisions, they justified the dissolution of a government elected for a five year term.


They praised President Sirisena for thwarting the UNP-led plan by giving the responsibility to the electorate. However, they couldn’t explain why that decision wasn’t taken on Oct 26 and the government making more ministerial appointments hours before the dissolution.


Sirisena is the first president to twice dissolve parliament in his tenure, first on the night of June 26, 2015 and now on the night of Nov 09, 2018.


All speakers targeted Speaker Jayasuriya for trying to cause political turmoil at the behest a section of the international community.


Jayasekera justified the dissolution as lawmakers could have been easily influenced by huge payments. Claiming that they were aware of those who provided the wherewithal to win over lawmakers, Jayasekera alleged that five members received as much as Rs 50mn each whereas some given Rs 500,000.


Jayasekera said that the UNP plans had been disrupted as the current parliament no longer exercised the power to decide the fate of the nation.


Every speaker at the PMO briefing underscored the need to ensure the rights of voters and respect their wishes with Premjayanth faulting former President JRJ for extending the term of lawmakers elected for a period of six years to 12 years in violation of the electorate’s privilege to exercise franchise.


Pointing out that in spite such statements, the SLFP-led UPFA and other parties had accommodated so many candidates rejected by people at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015, Sunday Island asked whether they could give a guarantee publicly to the electorate that defeated candidates wouldn’t be brought in to parliament under any circumstances.


Both Premjayanth and Weerawansa said that the matter would receive due consideration. When Sunday Island reminded the panel Communist Party General Secretary Dew Gunasekera had declared that the then President JRJ manipulated the formulation of the National List to accommodate the defeated candidates though such despicable practice wasn’t recommended by the relevant parliamentary committee.


Weerawansa responded that they didn’t have a dispute with Sunday Island over the issue raised regarding the National List.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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